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I'm not much for journals. But I'll give it a shot. Narien and I were working on our new black light "catch us a C. americanus and C. castaneus" set up when I got a PM from Orbyx asking for an ID on this photo. It looked like C. nearcticus to me and I confirmed that via Discord. Then I joked with her to grab the queen for us because she knows our #1 goal is to keep all of Ohio's Camponotus species. A few minutes later my phone dings ... "I think I found the queen." She then explained that this colony was in her wood pile that they need to use. The colony had to go anyway. So she sent me her address and started scooping the colony into a 5 gallon bucket that she hastily lined with fluon. By the time we got there, (8 minutes and 17 "holy shit's" later) she had just about the whole colony in there with minimal casualties ... but no queen. All that was left was a small rotten knothole with a few ants in there. Sure enough, as it was dissected away, the queen was found ... unharmed !!! Orbyx said we probably got 90% of the colony and brood. We cleaned up some stragglers and rushed home to get these ladies set up ASAP because the stress of such an ordeal on a colony is immense. Fortunately we had a couple of set-ups about ready to go because we are about to move a couple of founding colonys to formicaria. Bing-Bang-Boom and they are settled. They explored the set-up almost immediately and began to move into the tubes within minutes. By 2 hours they seemed very calm and content with minimal movement or activity. It sure seems that they are happy and will do well. And looking around ... we see very VERY few casualties. Our estimate is that this colony is about 300-350 strong right now with tons and tons of brood. (see first pic) A mature C. nearcticus colony should cap out at only a few hundred workers. So this is a dream for us. We are absolutely ecstatic and have nobody but Orbyx to thank. Her generosity and consideration towards us is only surpassed by her care and attentiveness to this colony that she gently and efficiently collected for us. Thank you and ant love forever. We will update this log as time goes by. Below is the first video.
Like many people, I want a Winter Ant (Prenolepis imparis) colony since they have such a different life strategy compared to other ants in our area. They are active in cool temperatures, polygynous, and have repletes, which will make them a nice contrast to my other ants. I really want a 3 queen colony since I like the number 3. Well, yesterday Dork (Dayton) on Discord sounded the alarm that he found a queen at a local park. [INFO: Day after light rain, about 67 F where we were.] I immediately rushed over and started hiking around. I thought place he found a queen was very unusual based on what I read about the species, since it was more of an open manicured lawn area, but there were some large trees around. I assumed she had traveled a fair distance and my gut told me I should at least take the time to check the wooded area before furiously searching the area known to have a queen. A few moments later, BAM, I walked into a nuptial flight in the woods. It was very exciting and I messaged the others at the park right away for them to come over (whether they read the texts or not in a timely manner is up for debate 😉). There were so many drones in the air, at times I was afraid to inhale strongly. And then I saw them, the much sought after queens. The first few I saw still had their wings and looked like they were just waking up. Since this was a flight, I figured it was in everyone's best interest to only catch queens who were in the act of mating or queens who have dropped their wings. And sure enough, nearly every queen I saw with wings eventually made her way into the sunlight and flew off. There was one queen however who was acting weird and I was very surprised when her wings suddenly popped off like she hit an eject button. Naturally, I scooped her up right away. Over the course of the flight, I caught 3 queens in the act of mating and 2 without wings. The two without wings I put into the same holding container and they eventually settled down and stayed by each other. The 3 with wings I ended up leaving in their holding container with their drones for a few hours just to make sure I didn't interrupt anything. At the end of the day, Dork gave me his queen to care for that way we can both have a 3 queen colony. When I got home, I put everyone in their appropriate starting tubes, which let me tell you, is an ORDEAL. But at least now they are safely in my queen box and will hopefully lay eggs soon. All cozy together: Two 3-queen starting tubes:
I've never kept a colony journal before, so I am super excited to start one now! I have had a couple of Formica subsericea colonies for over two years now, and I would like to paint you a picture of the life of my favorite Formica subsericea colony. I only know rough dates from the past, but as I update the journal I'll try to be more specific! March 21, 2017 On this day I caught my first ant queens! Well, technically I had caught queens before but I had no clue how to raise them. This year, however, I was ready. This day, in particular, was the first warm day above maybe 60 or 70 degrees in March and really felt like a true spring day. Under a couple of rocks in a flower bed right next to some woods on my property, I found two Formica subsericea queens and two Lasius parasite queens. They had likely all been under those rocks since the end of autumn as it is common for both of those species to over-winter before laying eggs. April 25, 2017 I have waited a month to check on my queens, and both Formica queens have around 4 to 6 larvae now! I can't wait until my first nanitics hatch. Also, I took this time to feed both of my queens a drop of honey. I know it is not necessary, but the queens were drinking from the honey even before I put the cotton ball back on the test tube. May 20, 2017 Both queens have their first nanitics! I checked on them at just the right time too, as the nanitics were both still light-colored and shakily moving around. It is interesting to see how closely both queens followed the same schedule even though they are separated. They both also laid a second, slightly larger brood of eggs about a week before the nanitics eclosed. At this point, I attach an Ants Canada Test Tube Portal to each of the tubes to act as a mini outworld. The only food I feed them is honey and crushed fruit flies, once a week. I have noticed stark behavior differences in the queens though. One is extremely upset whenever I check on them and even rushes out of the test tube in a fright. The other queen, however, seems to barely even notice my presence. May 29, 2017 I notice the nanitics venturing out of the test tube for the first time. At this point, the "skittish" queen has around five workers, and the other has four. July 17, 2017 Development is going nicely, the second clutch of eggs has finally hatched bringing the colony count of each colony up to about 10 workers. They no longer seem afraid to forage during the day and tend to send a larger number of workers out when I feed them. Late November 2017 After August, development really slowed down and I did not notice any more eggs being laid even though there was still brood in the developing stages. By mid-October, all of the brood had eclosed and colony activity diminished substantially. I decided to put the queens into hibernation the first day I noticed the ground was frozen. I kept them in my fridge set to 37 degrees for most of December but moved them into a smaller mini-fridge set at ~40 degrees. Early March 2018 On the first Saturday of March, I took my queens out of hibernation and they were both doing well. It took them about a week to work their appetite back up but they started eating ferociously and liked eating meat more than ever before. I attached a larger outworld setup to both of their Test Tube Portals and started feeding them a mix of superworms, bologna, apples, and honey. Summer 2018 Development is happening much slower than I expected. Both colonies have maybe 30 workers at the peak of Summer, but surprisingly the number shot up to maybe 50+ for my "Oblivious" queen. Foreseeing a huge growth in population, I moved them into a Tar Heel Ants Discus formicarium. Sadly, my "Skittish" queen refused to move from her test tube when I noticed they were hollowing out the cotton ball holding back the water. A few weeks later of them not moving, and I work up to a whole bunch of dead brood and ants, reducing the colony to maybe 10 or 15 workers with no brood. At this point, it was already late in the Summer, and the queen laid no more eggs that year. November 2018 I put both queens back in hibernation when I noticed the first snowfall of the year. This year's hibernation was much less stressful because I knew they had survived the same conditions last year so I was confident they would survive this year's hibernation. March 1, 2019 I brought my queens out of hibernation! They both are doing well, and I am eager to move my "skittish" queen into a new Tar Heel Ants Mini Hearth I got for Christmas as I did not trust them in the test tube anymore. March 13, 2019 Both of my colonies are doing great, although it seems only seven of my "Skittish" queen's workers survived hibernation. They both have been eating a ton of protein however and have very similarly sized brood piles which surprised me given the differences in colony size at this point. I am also noticing more repletes being formed in my "Oblivious" queen's colony. (Pictured) Also, my Skittish queen finally moved into the Tar Heel Ants nest and they seem to like it much better than their test tube. I hope they can get back on their feet soon! April 2, 2019 Both colonies have amazing piles of brood and larvae! Maybe 30+ so far. My "Oblivious" colony is really starting to look like a typical colony I would see in the wild, with many workers just milling around in the Outworld. I can't explain it, they just act like a more mature/typical colony. They even seem to move more confidently. My "Skittish" colony is not doing too great and only has 3 workers at this point. I have never had a colony drown themselves in honey before, but I have already lost three workers in the past two weeks from them falling in. I am doing nothing different from the other colonies and I don't know why this is happening! I have resorted to giving them a little bit of honey on a stick every few days. I can't wait until their new brood pile starts to hatch and they can get a decent amount of workers back to stabilize the colony and help it grow. "Oblivious" Colony: One drawback to the circular nest is that it is extremely hard to get good lighting in any photo. "Skittish" Colony: (Condensation on the glass makes the brood pile hard to see, but there is a substantial amount of eggs and larvae there.)